A hell of a record from saxophonist Jonas Kullhammar – a batch of work that was originally done for the film Gentlemen, but a set that you'll be listening to long after the film has faded from the screens! The set may well be one of Jonas' most traditional jazz records – a set that really gets to show off his tremendous talents in a straight jazz setting – with a richness of tone, and overall sense of presentation that makes us feel like Kullhammar would have been a great addition to the BlueNote catalog in the 60s. Yet the music also has a very contemporary sense of vibrancy too – as Jonas works here with key modern partners Tobjorn Zetterberg on bass, Carl Bagge on piano, and Johan Holmegard on drums – plus tremendous work on half the record from musicians who include Swedish jazz giant Bernt Rosengren on tenor, as well as Goran Kajfes on cornet and Mattias Stahl on vibes. Kulhammar plays tenor, baritone, stritch, and saxello – and titles include "Le Boulevardier", "Montmartre", "Paris Art Ensemble", "The Bear Quartet", "So Long Henry", "Danish Blow", and "Gazell". LP, Vinyl record album
One of the few sessions ever cut as a leader by LA drummer Stan Levey – as tight a set of west coast bop as you'll ever find on the Bethlehem label – recorded with a really cooking sextet that includes Conte Candoli on trumpet, Richie Kamuca on tenor, Frank Rosolino on trombone, Leroy Vinnegar on bass, and Sonny Clark on piano – getting his start on wax here before his more famous BlueNote sessions in New York! The presence of Clark really gives the set a great deal of energy – of the sort that Sonny brought to his other key west coast contributions of the time – and both Kamuca and Rosolino serve up some especially sharp solos. Tracks are mostly all over five minutes long – and titles include "Hit That Thing", "Tiny's Tune", "Blues At Sunrise", "Grand Stan", and "Angel Cake". LP, Vinyl record album
(Original pressing. Cover has light splitting and some stains on the back.)
John Lewis & Albert Mangelsdorff/Zagreb Jazz Quart —
Animal Dance ... LP Atlantic, 1962. Very Good ...
One of the hippest albums that John Lewis ever recorded – and a set that's noteworthy for the presence of two European modernists! Most of the record features Lewis in a wonderful group with trobmonist Albert Mangelsdorff – who gets plenty of space here to play in his stepping, stuttering style – one of the more angular approaches to trombone in the 60s, and a nice contrast to the piano of Lewis. The group shared by both features Karl Theodor Geier on bass and Silvije Glojarnic on drums – and titles include "Animal Dance", "Set Em Up", "Monday In Milan", and "Why Are You Blue". But possibly even better than these sides is the album's one track by the amazing Zagreb Jazz Quartet – a group that features Bosko Petrovic on vibes, in a style that's somewhat inspired by the MJQ, but a fair bit darker too! The group play the wonderful "Ornaments" – awash in blue tones and richly chromatic vibes. LP, Vinyl record album
(Green & blue label pressing. Cover has some wear and sticker remnants.)
A very nice set of Japanese fusion tracks cut by guitarist Reggie Lucas, with nice electric backing by Hubert Eaves on keyboard, Michael Henderson on bass, and other acoustic players like Mtume, John Stubblefield, and Clifford Adams. The set was recorded by East Wind in Japan, and the best cuts on here have that nice smooth fusion sound that graced their releases in this vein from the 70's. Lucas hits some excellent grooves with a warm sweeping feel, punctuated by tight solos with lots of bluenotes, and these cuts include "Tender Years", "The Barefoot Song", and "Slewfoot". The "Survival Themes" suite is a bit more "out", and less to our liking, but there's more than enough good moments on the other cuts! CD
Not a funky strut in the manner of David Matthews' 70s work for CTI/Kudu Records – but a set that has the pianist bringing a really old school, soul jazz approach to the session – almost trying to go for the 60s modes of players like Horace Silver or Bobby Timmons! As with other Manhattan Jazz Quintet albums, the set really sparkles from the talents of Lew Soloff on trumpet and George Young on tenor – a duo who know how to come together, then break apart with the kind of dynamic, soulful styles of an older BlueNote record – and the rest of the group features Eddie Gomez on bass and Peter Erskine on drums. Titles include "Hot Grits", "Sister Sadie", "Song For My Father", "Foxy Little Thing", and "Funky Strut". CD features the bonus track "The Cat" – an old Lalo Schifrin classic! CD
Hardbop albums don't get any better than this – and although drummer Dave Bailey only recorded for a brief stretch as a leader, this session's one that shows that he was a heck of a force to contend with! The record's got an intensity that easily rivals the best by Art Blakey over at BlueNote during the early 60s – but Dave's also got a slightly looser groove too – a bit more sense of humanity, and one that allows for really organic interplay between the players. There's a slight soul jazz undercurrent – especially in the piano lines of Billy Gardner – and other players in the quintet include Bill Hardman on trumpet, Frank Haynes on tenor, and Ben Tucker on bass. The group wails on an early version of Tucker's classic "Comin' Home Baby", plus other great originals like "Coffee Walk", "Lady Iris B", and "Two Feet In the Gutter". A old favorite on the south side of Chicago! CD
Hard to have any feet in the gutter when you sound this great – as the album's a killer batch of hardbop, led by drummer Dave Bailey during his classic short run on Columbia! The lineup here is amazing – a rock-solid sextet with Clark Terry on trumpet, Junior Cook on tenor, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Horace Parlan on piano, and Peck Morrison on bass – all hitting with an intensity which rivals the best on BlueNote or Prestige – but which is arguably even better, given that most of the tracks on the set really stretch out! Side two features an extended 20 minute take on "Sandu" – and side one features "One Foot In The Gutter" and "Well You Needn't" – both over 10 minutes long! CD
Art Blakey —
In My Prime 1 ... CD Timeless/Ultra Vybe (Japan), 1978. New Copy ...
About September 16, 2015
You gotta love the confidence in Blakey's title for this one – because even in the late 70s, over 20 years since starting the Jazz Messengers, he was still very much in his prime! The album has him working with a wonderful group that includes Bobby Watson, Curtis Fuller, David Schnitter, and James Williams – plus percussionist Ray Mantilla, added in on a few tracks to give the set a slightly fuller sound. Tracks are long, dynamic, and gorgeous – really stepping out with the warmth and imagination that Blakey never let die during his career – but which seemed to be buring as brightly during this stretch as it was during the few really noteworthy points of earlier years. The set features a wonderful early reading of Watson's "To See Her Face", plus other tracks that include "Hawkman", "People Who Laugh", "Jodie", and "1978". CD also features 2 bonus tracks from the album Reflection In Blue. CD
This was vibe player Burton's first record as a leader and he teams up with Joe Morello on drums and Gene Cherico on bass. The eight selections are a mixture of standards as well as some more popular music and as the liner notes indicate there were no formal arrangements for any of the songs. The titles include "Joy Spring", "Over The Rainbow", "Like Someone In Love", "Minor Blues", "Out Waltz", "So Many Things", "Sir John", and "You Stepped Out Of A Dream". There is a picture of Burton on the back cover in which he looks so young it's as if they borrowed it from his high school yearbook. CD
A brilliant album – and real turning point for Herbie Hancock! After first coming onto the scene as the soul jazz hero between BlueNote funky classics like "Watermelon Man" or "Blind Man, Blind Man" – Herbie emerges here as a concerned modernist with a strand of spirituality that runs deeper than previously expressed. The key track in this vision is his brilliant modal number "Maiden Voyage" – one of those tunes that sounded totally fresh immediately, and which was picked up by many others as a jazz anthem during the 60s. The rest of the album's equally great – and features George Coleman on tenor, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums – all making for a very hip lineup that really lets Herbie open up stylistically! Other titles include "Dolphin Dance", "Little One", and an original version of "Survival Of The Fittest". LP, Vinyl record album
JJ Johnson —
Really Livin ... CD Columbia (Japan), Late 50s. New Copy ...
About November 15, 2015
One of the hippest, hardest albums that JJ Johnson ever cut for Columbia – a session we'd rank right up there with his amazing JJ Inc record! Like that one, the strength here is really the full group – an amazing array of players that includes Nat Adderley on trumpet, Bobby Jaspar on tenor and flute, Cedar Walton on piano, Spanky DeBrest on bass, and Albert Heath on drums – all working with a soaring, soulful energy that feels more like a BlueNote session than a date on Columbia at the time. Titles include "Me Too", "Decision", "Stardust", "Sidewinder", "Speak Low", and "Red Cross". CD
JJ Johnson Quintet —
Dial J J 5 ... CD Columbia (Japan), Early 60s. New Copy ...
About October 15, 2015
One of JJ's best from the late 50s – a tightly crackling hardbop set, recorded very much in the manner of his classic JJ Inc album! The sound here is a bit more compact overall – with some shorter tracks that really allow Johnson to display his keen sense of economy on his horn, while working in a burning mode that recalls some of his best bop sides from the early years – particularly his work on BlueNote. Bobby Jaspar's in the frontline with JJ – playing both tenor and flute – and rhythm is from a trio that features Tommy Flanagan on piano, Wilbur Little on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. Jones' touch on the kit gives the album a nicely dancing feel throughout – and is a real reminder of his simple genius in an early setting like this. Titles include "Bird Song", "Blue Haze", "Old Devil Moon", "Tea Pot", "Barbados", "Cette Chose", and "So Sorry Please". CD
Not the soundtrack to the popular TV drama of the same name – but a set that returns tenorist Eric Alexander to all the fire he brought to his early years on the Chicago scene! Alexander's set up here with a key range of players from this years – longtime associates Harold Mabern on piano, John Webber on bass, and Joe Farnsworth on drums – all rhythmic giants who push Eric back into the kind of old school territory that made him an instant heir to the Chicago legacy of tenor giants like Johnny Griffin, Eddie Harris, and Von Freeman! Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt joins the group on a few tracks – adding in these soaring lines on trumpet that really sparkle – but we honestly like the quartet numbers the best, as they have Alexander opening up in some nicely unbridled territory. Titles include "Blueski For Vonski", "Eddie Harris", "Bee Hive", and "You Talk That Talk". LP, Vinyl record album
An essential Art Farmer session from the mid 50s – and a magnificent batch of hardbop tracks that we'd rank with some of our favorite work on BlueNote! The group is incredibly strong – with Hank Mobley on tenor, Kenny Drew on piano, Addison Farmer on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums – all coming together with a magical in-the-pocket groove that persists on nearly every track. Farmer's still at a formative stage here – and he's going for a much harder sound than usual, with an excellent tone and extremely well calculated solos throughout. Mobley's at his best from this period, and his playing puts this session more in the tightly executed BlueNote camp (ala some of the Horace Silver late 50s recordings), than it does the Prestige/New Jazz blowing session mode. The whole thing's great – and titles include "Ad-Dis-Un", "By Myself", "Farmer's Market", "With Prestige", and "Wailin' With Hank". CD